Volume 20, Number 41 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 23 - March 1, 2011
Witch hazel is blooming in Battery Park City’s South Cove. These plants are hybrids descended from a species of witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, that originated in China.
Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
A few of the hundreds of Gate House customers who packed the Battery Park City restaurant on Thursday and Friday nights, Feb. 17 and 18, before the Gate House closed after seven years.
Covering Battery Park City
BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Ice Rink Planning:
Last week Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Ball Fields and Community Center Task Forces met with representatives of the Battery Park City Authority (B.P.C.A.) to talk about the Battery Park City ice rink, which debuted last winter on the ball fields at Murray and West Streets but wasn’t there this year for a variety of reasons. The B.P.C.A. is set to issue a Request for Proposals for a new ice rink operator and wants community input. If and when a new ice rink appears on the ball fields, for the first time there will be artificial turf underneath it, which compounds the complexity of what should — or could — be done with that space. Previously it couldn’t be used during the winter for sports such as soccer, football or baseball. With artificial turf, theoretically the ball fields could be used all winter long either for team sports or for free play.
“It sounds to me as though the ideal would be to have the best of both worlds: to have a rink and have half the field for free play and permitted play available in the winter time,” said Jeff Galloway, chair of the Ball Fields Task Force.
Members of the Task Force noted that an ice rink operator could have the use of the ball fields from just after Thanksgiving at the end of soccer season to March 1, when the baseball season begins. However, if an ice rink could be located elsewhere in Battery Park City — not on the ball fields — the skating season could be a little longer, allowing for more time to set up and break down a rink.
The Task Force decided to look into other options and get back to the B.P.C.A. within four weeks, so that an R.F.P. could be issued early in April. “I think we do have a consensus that we want to see an ice rink that can work somewhere,” said Galloway.
Several inches of snow fell on Presidents’ Day, but under that cozy, white blanket, the stalwart blooms in Battery Park City’s gardens were probably none the worse for wear. Battalions of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are blooming along the esplanade and in South Cove. One hardy hellebore (Hellebore niger), a.k.a. the “Christmas Rose,” has poked its head up in South Cove, with white, pink-tinged petals, and clouds of yellow witch hazel are blooming in South Cove and Teardrop Park.
The South Cove witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’) is a hybrid, whose ancestors, Hamamelis mollis and H. japonica, came from Asia. The German botanist Philipp Franz von Siebold introduced the Japanese version of the plant to the west in 1863. H. mollis is native to China and was collected by botanist Charles Maries in the Kukiang District in 1879. The Battery Park City hybrid originated at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, where it was introduced in 1928.
Witch hazel takes its name from Middle English, “wiche” and Old English “wice,” meaning “pliant.” The twigs are noticeably bendable and Y-shaped cuttings were used as dousing rods, in a search for potable water. Witch hazel also has many medicinal uses. An American species of the plant, Hamamelis virginiana, was used by Native Americans to treat aching muscles, insect bites and inflammation. Distillations of the bark, leaves and twigs, which are high in tannins, are still used as an astringent to tighten skin pores, stanch bleeding and soothe hemorrhoids and bruises. Witch hazel distillations and lotions can be commonly found in drug stores.
Battery Park City Restaurant News:
Friday, February 18, turned out to be the last night for the Gate House, which closed after seven years in business at South End Avenue and Albany Street. Hundreds of people packed the beloved watering hole on both Thursday and Friday nights to say goodbye. On Thursday night, except for the crowd, the place looked almost normal. In the dining area, kids talked and ate at their own table while their parents sat around a separate table nearby. By Friday night, the pictures were gone from the walls and equipment and furnishings had been piled up in a back room. Jack Greenleaf, 7 years old, was in tears. His mother, Lisa, said that she had visited the Gate House regularly when she was pregnant with Jack, and that they had come to the Gate House almost every Friday night since his birth. “Fridays were family nights,” she said. Other customers weren’t crying, like little Jack, but they might have felt just as forlorn. Around 5 a.m., the door closed for the last time.
Meanwhile, a block away, Merchants River House on the Battery Park City esplanade between Albany and Liberty Streets, (the former Steamers Landing) has a crisp, new look and new menus. Starting on February 18, the bar is staying open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Merchants is also offering weekly wine specials of what owner Abraham Merchant describes as “higher-end wines” that sell at Merchants River House for $30 to $60 a bottle, but would be “25 percent to 30 percent more elsewhere.”
People who drive to Merchants River House can park their cars at the Gateway Plaza parking garage for a flat fee of $20 for up to four hours (get your garage ticket validated when you pay for your meal), and beginning the first week in March, all diners will receive a movie ticket good at any Regal cinema if they spend a minimum of $30 per person on a meal. A fee of $1.50 per ticket applies if the ticket is to be used in New York State.
Also new at Merchants River House, there will be live music every other Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., courtesy of a local group of teens who call themselves “The Living Room Project.”
“They’ll be playing on the north terrace,” said Merchant, “so that the music will be in just one part of the restaurant.”
“We want to provide a family atmosphere,” said Christian Qualey, one of the managers, who noted that Merchants River House has a newly expanded menu for kids.
Qualey also mentioned that Merchants will soon be starting “Movie Nights,” with classics and children’s movies. Go to www.merchantsriverhouse.com/specials for the latest information.
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